In recent weeks several new developments have placed the Lauren Giddings murder case back into the forefront of Macon crime.
Skeletal remains were discovered earlier this month though there is currently no evidence to prove they are Giddings’ remains. A skull, ribs and leg bones were found behind a Gray Highway shopping center. Macon police spokeswoman, Jami Guadet, told reporters that the bones are being sent to the crime lab.
Lauren Giddings’ dismembered body was discovered June 30, 2011 in Macon, Ga. after friends and family reported her missing. Giddings’ torso was found in a curbside garbage bin at a 16-unit complex across from Mercer’s School of Law. Giddings and suspect Stephen McDaniel were law school classmates at Mercer University and neighbors for three years. Giddings was 27.
McDaniel’s was arrested July 2 and has been held in custody ever since.
McDaniel’s attorneys are currently asking for a bond entitlement seeing as McDaniel’s was not indicted within 90 days of his arrest. McDaniel’s was indicted in December for 30 counts of child exploitation charges. He entered a plea of not guilty. The bond the attorneys wish to seek is on the murder charge, a separate account in the charges.
“The issue there is that their claiming that there’s a statute that requires the prosecution to have indicted within a certain number of days. I cannot conceive that a situation where any type of bail bond would be set by a judge that this man would be capable of making. You just don’t let an alleged murderer…you don’t let them make bond. And you certainly don’t let them do that in a potential death penalty case,” said Mercer Criminal Justice Professor, Dr. Charles Weston. Dr. Weston worked in the District Attorney’s office for 28 years, becoming District Attorney in 1994. He has also handled several death penalty cases in the Macon Judicial Circuit.
The prosecution faced their own legal endeavors as they pursued whether Bibb County Chief Superior Court Judge S. Phillip Brown properly assigned himself to preside over McDaniel’s capital murder case.
Attorney’s for McDaniel accused prosecutors of “judge shopping” while allegedly searching to replace Brown in the death penalty case.
Dr. Weston, who has been in court cases with Brown said, “He’s very easy to work with. He has been known by everyone as being much more pro-defense than pro-prosecution. I’m not leveling that charge. I do know form my own experience with him, he is clearly the most pro-defendant judge I’ve ever worked with.”
Prosecutors made a request for Brown to review how Macon Circuit capital cases are given to judges. This was to ensure that the proper order of assignment was followed. McDaniel’s attorneys countered this claim last Monday by filing a motion claiming that prosecutors were attempting to remove Brown.
On Friday, Judge Ronnie Joe Lane, from Seminole county, ruled that Judge Brown may continue on the case. Lane inquired as to why the prosecution would pursue such a motion if the defense did not object. He suggested that prosecutors manipulate the system indirectly to choose a judge for a capital case.
Assistant District Attorney Nancy Scott Malcor defended the prosecution. Claiming that the selection of judges in capital cases has been assigned in two different ways. “The state became aware of a possible error,” she said to reporters. “We wanted to bring it to the court’s attention. Judge Brown said to file a motion and that’s why we’re here. … It’s not saying we don’t like this judge or we like that judge.”
Dr. Weston pointed out the obvious concern a prosecution would have in concerns to a more lenient judge. Weston said that since the option in death penalty cases to have a sentence of life without parole, the choice of the death penalty has significantly fallen. “If this is not a death penalty case then I don’t know which one is,” said Dr. Weston.
Despite the arguing in the media and in the court the evidence from both sides has been kept relatively secret. “They have done a remarkable job of keeping the lid on the evidence. I mean there not letting much leak out and that’s the way it outta be,” said Dr. Weston.
A story released by the Macon Telegraph confirmed that all forensic testing on the case has been completed. This would include all evidence gathered by Macon police last summer and sent to FBI and GBI labs.